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  • Driving commercial and political engagement between Asia, the Middle East and Europe

    Delivering through Diversity

    Published On: 14 November 2018

    “Delivering through Diversity”, a conference organised by Asia House in partnership with McKinsey and Company, focused on the commercial advantages of diversity and inclusion.

    Vivian Hunt DBE, Managing Partner, McKinsey and Partners, gave a presentation on McKinsey’s new report on diversity, before a panel discussion explored the issue further.

    Chaired by Michael Lawrence, Chief Executive of Asia House, the panel included Rosie Donachie, Head of Corporate Affairs Europe, BHP, who discussed the importance of top-down support in mainstreaming diversity and implementing change. Rosie spoke on BHP’s ambitious 50:50 gender target, which seeks to fill half of the company’s workforce with women by 2025 – a challenge in the traditionally-male dominated mining industry. Led by BHP’s top leadership, the target’s launch in 2016 has brought about measurable positive changes, including increased productivity, inclusion, and health and safety measures.

    Although key performance indicators (KPI) and statistics have the power to create change, it is also important to acknowledge the different benchmarks for diversity, a point discussed by Laura Dunley, Commercial Director, Hitachi Rail Europe. Laura expanded on Hitachi’s different approaches across three countries where the company is based – Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The importance of localising strategies was reiterated by Daniel Danso, Global Diversity Manager of Linklaters, who spoke of the need to include local expertise to suit different legislative and cultural factors across various countries.

    Further, the lack of a uniform definition of diversity created concerns among participants, who highlighted the necessity to go beyond quotas and examine the system as a whole. Beyond government-backed legislation, the private sector also has a vital role in driving changes, as businesses are able to influence each other and collaborate to enhance diversity. Previously faced with this experience, BHP attributed advancements in innovation and technology as the force behind their supply chain diversity. Crafting a strong, sustained diversity strategy requires inclusive and forward-thinking leadership, and although change may be slow, it is no reason to be discouraged.

    The role of higher education was explored by Professor Sarah Sharples, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, University of Nottingham. Education serves a dual purpose, as it equips students with necessary skills and qualifications to enter the workforce, while also having the potential to change pre-conceived notions.

    The conference was concluded with a keynote speech from Priscilla To, Director-General, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London, who reiterated the importance of diversity to organisations, industries, and the community. Providing a governmental perspective, she spoke about how Hong Kong’s diversity has created social harmony, which has helped position it as an international metropolis and attractive place for global business.